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Welsh researchers discover powerful new way to produce malaria drug

Scientists in Wales have discovered a new way of making a drug commonly used in the fight against malaria around the world.

Credit: James Gathany/Cdc/Handout/DPA/PA Images

The method, devised by researchers at Cardiff University, significantly reduces the time, and cost, taken to produce artemisinin, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation for treatment of all cases of severe malaria.

The worldwide supply of the drug relies on it being extracted from the plant Artemisia annua. It's a lengthy process, with 13 steps, so chemists began looking at a way of efficiently producing it in a laboratory.

There is an urgent need to produce the drug at low cost, because the current demand for artemisinin comes mainly from the developing world. The new method means the drug can be created in just four steps.

Our new method has essentially bypassed a number of key steps on the way to producing artemisinin.

What we're left with is a novel and powerful approach for producing the drug that does not rely on extraction from large amounts of plants. Our approach could reduce market fluctuations in the supply chain of artemisinin.

– Professor Rudolf Allemann, School of Chemistry, Cardiff University

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Top award for designer of harness for mums-to-be

Dafydd, the harness and wife Ruth.

A medical harness designed by a North Wales businessman to help pregnant women combat acute pelvic pain has won a top industry innovation award.

The revolutionary harness is for women suffering intense pelvic girdle pain (PGP), also called symphysis pubic dysfunction.

Dafydd Roberts, from Pentrfoelas, has been working with medics from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) since designing the special support girdle to help his wife Ruth during her fourth pregnancy.

It's scooped the Judges Award in the MediWales Research & Innovation Award ceremony.

It’s quite an honour to receive the award. We really didn’t expect to win as it’s a relatively simple idea but a lot of hard work has been put in by so many health professionals and this success is testament to everyone’s ongoing commitment.

Up to now, we’ve opted for a soft launch really just to see how people respond to it. We’ve sold some online and we’ve had very positive feedback.

Things are now moving pretty quickly. The trials are ongoing at the moment across all sites at the BCUHB. We’re getting quite a bit of interest without really pushing the product. Once we know the outcome of the trial we will get a much better idea.

– Dafydd Roberts

Dippy the Diplodocus is to visit the Senedd

Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Dippy the Diplodocus sets off on a time-shifting tour of the UK in early 2018, bringing a flavour of the Jurassic to eight carefully selected venues across the UK including the National Assembly of Wales.

The 70ft plaster-cast sauropod replica has dominated the Natural History Museum's Hintze hall since 1979.

Then a decision was taken to retire Dippy from 2017 and replace him with the real skeleton of a blue whale.

The move went viral on social media with the launch of a Twitter campaign under the hashtag SaveDippy. More than 32,000 people signed a petition calling on the museum to change its mind.

The installation will attract thousands of people to the Senedd, the home of Welsh democracy. Working with our partners, we will provide unique learning experiences, linked to sustainability and science, for people of all ages.

We will also provide further opportunities for visitors to discuss Wales’s past and present and have a say about our nation’s future.

– Elin Jones AM, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales

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New wave energy scheme for Pembrokeshire

The site of the scheme has not yet been revealed. Credit: Mike Fuhrmann/The Canadian Press/PA Images

A £5.8m scheme to generate energy from sea waves off the Pembrokeshire coast has been announced.

Wave-tricity will develop and test a new device called the Ocean Wave Rower backed by EU funding.

The Welsh Government says the project is the latest investment to help create a world-leading marine energy sector in Wales.

£12m has been committed to clean energy projects including Minesto’s Deep Green initiative, being developed in Anglesey, and Marine Power Solutions’ WaveSub technology which will also be deployed in Pembrokeshire waters.

Marine energy is an important sector and Wales has excellent natural resources which can be harnessed. I am delighted this investment will bring another significant energy project to Pembrokeshire.

It’s very encouraging that this scheme, which has such potential is being developed in Wales, particularly as it will lead to good employment and business opportunities in the local area.

– Mark Drakeford AM, Finance Secretary
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